How can you get SEO and social work together in perfect harmony? I’ve spoken to Jo Turnbull, blogger extraordinaire and organiser of the Search London event to get some inter-disciplinary collaboration wisdom.
Tell us what you do?
I’m Jo Turnbull, also known as SEOJoBlogs and I run a meetup group called Search London. And I’ve been working in the industry for about eight, nine years, client side, freelance, also worked agency as well. So have a good understanding of how SEO has changed and how the social media has branched out, as well as content marketing.
Let’s start with the basics, what is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. And it’s basically making sure that your site is done in the best way possible to ensure you gain as much visibility and, obviously, traffic as possible. I like to call it the Simple Easy Option, something that people should be thinking about even before they’ve actually set up their website and built it. Search Engine Land defines SEO as the natural process of getting traffic from the organic or natural search results on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
I help companies improve their overall visibility. So I think in the past it used to be about keywords, I don’t think it was about keywords, and improving your ranking position. Obviously, that was just for specific keywords but now we have universal search. So you can appear in image search, video search. You can also appear in direct answer. You can also appear with doing recipes, you can appear in rich snippets markup. So now it’s not just about exactly ranking. It’s just overall visibility, and obviously, trying to get as much traffic as possible. And obviously as an e-Commerce site, to try and convert that traffic.
Is Google as dominant as it used to be?
Google is still very big in UK and also the U.S. Obviously outside, for example, China, it’s more Baidu. Google has a very small market share, if any, I believe there. I don’t have the initial stats of how the market share is in for Google. But I was actually at BrightonSEO earlier this year, actually just a couple of months ago, and it was quite interesting. They had a competition that Bing did on how much market share do you think Bing have. Now, I know everybody thinks something like less than 5%, 10%, 15% and so. So Bing are actually becoming a bigger player in the market than maybe they once were. According to a comScore report, it was probably early this year or late last year, they were getting 21% of the search engine market share. So that’s quite good.
What exactly is social media?
Social media is, according to Webster, Merriam-Webster, it’s basically the electronic competition, communication, through which people create online communities to share information, ideas, and personal messages. So many people think of social media as Facebook, but obviously, there are many different platforms such as, you know, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Snapchat. Social media is basically a relatively new way that allows a company, a brand, to directly connect with their customers.
Where is social media heading?
Social media as well as SEO and content marketing are really going to be, if not already, work very, very close together, you can group them under sort of one big team. Social media is going to be even more important to customers and therefore to the big brands. They need to have that social media presence. Actually, I read an article on Adweek, these stats are a little bit outdated but it did say that there is actually 1.59 billion people using Facebook. That was actually from December 2015. If it were a country, it’d actually be the most populous in the world, bigger than China. So there’s quite a few people using Facebook now. Not bad for someone who set it up from their dorm room back in college.
How can social media and SEO work together?
I think really, just to take a step back, I really think it is important that social media and SEO work together. Because basically they help build your brand. So, for example, looking at SEO, you need to make sure that your website is built in the best possible way so that you can have the highest visibility as possible, you don’t have any technical errors wrong with your website. You’ve actually got a website, let’s say. And then also you have social media to help sort of boost that, boost the awareness. You can run, if you want, social campaigns through that. Some are paid, some are just promoting a blog post on your actual website. And when I say promoting, you don’t have to always pay for that. If you have big enough community, you can be just posting that on your wall.
So there’s quite a few different ways how they can work together. I think really with social media, you have ROI. It’s a very clear return on investment. You can see how often, like a piece of content has been shared. You can see how many people have seen it. You can also, if you were to be running an ad on social media, promoting a piece of content, you would actually be able to see how much interactions that had. So it’s quite refreshing and quite good to be able to see, how has my ad actually been seen and you can also see, obviously, by whom, which market that was, who was the demographic as well.
How can social facilitate the content creation process?
That’s another way that social media and SEO can work together. I would actually use social media to engage with customers and then also, you can write about what they’re looking for, obviously, how-to guides, checklists, helpful resource articles. You can then share this on your social media channels. Google, rewards sites with quality content, the big monopoly rewards sites when there was interaction, when people are clicking through to a site, when they’re clicking through on a piece of content. And you would then appear higher in the rankings if you have more interactions on a piece of content than, obviously, someone who doesn’t.
I believe that content is important, has always been important for SEO. And obviously, social media has become very key to the growth of that platform. It’s just that I think, in the past, Google has already said, “We want to have good content,” but I don’t think they were able to. They said themselves they weren’t able to actually implement that. So people would cheat their way into ranking higher, buying links, maybe doing keyword stuffing, making big sites where each page actually doesn’t have a lot of content. So, it’s always been important but Google now penalizes sites that don’t have it.
What social signals does Google look at?
Google changed things quite a lot. I mean, I think their biggest one is around the mobile. The fact that, if your site is not mobile-friendly, then you have an error message, “This site is not mobile-friendly,” in the search results. In terms of social media, I think maybe they’re a bit frustrated with, if you just take for example Facebook, how that works. I’ve heard different things, whether they do or they do not take into account social signals. But what they do do is that if there’s more interaction with a piece of content or a website and people are clicking through, then that’s what they take into account. And if people have a good user experience, they come back, obviously that’s another factor. If you have a fast-loading page or a website, they take that into account. Obviously, if you have mobile version of your site, they may also take that into account. So there’s quite a few different factors and they’re always refining that.
Is Google+ still a thing?
I think Google wanted to get onto the social media bandwagon. Before Google+, they actually had Google Buzz. I don’t know if anyone remembers that, but that did not work. The aim of Google+ was also the fact that you could make sure that authors were not anonymous anymore. So you have author profile and they encourage you to fill that out so that if you looked for…if you did a search for any particular blog, for example, or an article, your face would come up and belong with the matched description. They dropped that but then they kept saying that Google+ is very important, you need to do that. But to be honest, I haven’t heard much in the past year or so on sort of the advancement of it, apart from the fact that they said it’s important and they’re reworking some things internally.
How can social media help us benchmark competitors?
We all live in a land of competitors, so I would probably take maybe three of your key competitors and have a look and see what they are doing on social media, what are they doing right, what are they doing wrong, how could you improve. Obviously, there’s lots of tools and platforms out there in industry and you can use them to find out more about your competitors. Not just what they’re doing social but what they’re doing in terms of backlinks or traditional link building, so content marketing, what are they doing in terms of how are their pages performing. So there’s quite a lot that you can, I would say, look at for competitors, see what you like, don’t like, and obviously, do it better.
What SEO tools work well with social media?
I’ve been in the industry for a number of years, so there’s so many that I would recommend. Currently I’m working at Searchmetrics, I really like their platform. Basically, they have a research facility and they have the projects section. So the Research Cloud, you can find out what competitors are doing and then you can put those competitors into your project and then follow them against keywords. You can see what keywords they’re ranking for, what they’re not ranking for, or what they’re ranking for and you’re not. So you have gap analysis, you can find out how the content’s doing, you can see what they’re doing in terms of social media. I’ve also used Majestic. Majestic is really good for, especially, for analyzing links. I had to do quite a few link removals a couple of years ago and that really helped me a lot.
I’ve used SimilarWeb as well before, just to see or review how the market’s doing. That’s quite good. Hitwise, I have used as well. They are very interesting, you can get quite a lot of detail from Hitwise. Their support is very good. You just need to, obviously, try and put the filters on. So those are just some of the ones that I would recommend. You just need to, basically, have the time and resources to dedicate your time or your team’s time to using these and to be able to get the most out of these platforms.
Follow Jo on Twitter @SearchLDN.